Letter: Another look at Williamstown Warrant Article 33
To the Editor:
The Planning Board has been working hard to expand housing options in Williamstown. This is an important issue and one I fully support, but perhaps it has been working a little too hard.
Last year's housing proposal didn't even make it to town meeting before it was stopped by citizens who raised a number of valid concerns. That proposal targeted a specific area of town for increased density and would have allowed six housing units per lot by right and up to eight units per lot with Zoning Board of Appeals approval. In short it was viewed as an ill-considered and aggressive effort being foisted upon a small area of town, and with too little time left to rework the article, it was tabled.
As a current member of the Williamstown Planning Board, I do not have the impression that NIMBYism is a major issue here, and I believe that there is significant support among the community for new housing options, in general, and for more affordable housing, in specific. The problem is finding an acceptable balance between the legal change of neighborhood rights and expectations, and the accommodation of those changes.
This year, the Planning Board has delivered two new articles, 32 and 33 for consideration at town meeting on May 21. Both articles extend new rights to most residential zones in Williamstown. Although Article 32 is likely to be uncontested, Article 33 remains controversial for allowing a total of three dwelling units per lot in residential neighborhoods, and differentiating between the rights of property owners by allowing new construction of a detached dwelling unit "by right" on conforming residential lots, and only by special permit on non-conforming lots. In Williamstown, these homes are often next door to one another.
To address the issue of imbalance in property rights, an amendment to Article 33 will be presented at town meeting by Anne Hogeland and newly elected Planning Board member Dante Birch. That amendment will retain the current requirement of ZBA approval for all detached dwelling units and restores a level of fairness to this article.
I urge the voters of Williamstown to support this effort at town meeting on May 21.
In my opinion, it is better for the Planning Board to reach for reasonable goals and build on successes rather than overshoot and achieve nothing. Let's get this right, with broad community support, and move forward.
Carlisle is a member of the Planning Board and writes the Planning Board has not approved this letter.
Tags: town meeting 2019,